Oh! You Backcountry Skiing Savage!

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | May 25, 2008      

One of the (dare I say) backcountry skiing classics in this area of Colorado is Savage Peak. Located in the grey zone where the Sawatch Range transitions to the Gore Range, Savage provides everything from a vast southerly face of moderate corn harvesting, all the way to the Savage Couloir and associated steeps. What makes this a worthy objective is the rather tame approach via a plowed water road and a few hundred vert of timber. The route is straightforward — a map is probably all you need.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Our family of three did Savage this morning. I was thinking of doing the Couloir but this winter’s huge cornices made the entrance hard to find, so rather than messing around we did the southerly reach. Another group was up there. When we left they were looking for the Couloir and I’d imagine they eventually found a way in. I’d skied the Couloir a few times, including what was probably the first descent back in 1997 with Bob Perlmutter and Jason Troth. So not a big deal to skip, though I would have liked Louie and Lisa to have enjoyed it. Photo above is Louie on the southerly face.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Lisa approaches the timber quickly, just above this nice waterfall. Check out the ice, May 25!

Colorado backcountry skiing.
These guys were camping in the basin below the peak, and summited when we did. We exchanged names, but I didn’t write down the monikers. So guys, if you want to live forever on WildSnow.com leave a comment with your ID. Or, if that polka dot shirt is too much, perhaps you’d rather remain anonymous?

Colorado backcountry skiing.
Family Wildsnow. Amazing how cold it was up there. To right that’s 14er Mount of the Holy Cross.

Colorado backcountry skiing.
You might think Colorado’s Savage Peak is somewhat hidden and obscure, but when you’re driving up the Fryingpan Valley, from the town of Basalt, this is the view you get when you’re at the Ruedi Reservoir dam. Mellow backcountry ski route is marked. Savage Couloir is on opposite side.

Panorama of Sawatch from Savage Peak

Louie heads down, with Colorado’s consistently highest elevation region spread out before him — the northern Sawatch mountains. Please click image for massive enlargement (wait for file download).


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9 Responses to “Oh! You Backcountry Skiing Savage!”

  1. dave downing May 25th, 2008 5:41 pm

    hey lou. nice you got savage today. i was bummed last week when the warm weather shut us out, plus we received bogus info that the road hadn’t been plowed from the forest service.

  2. Lou May 25th, 2008 7:28 pm

    You can’t depend on the USFS for road info! Know that. That is a spiritual truth (grin).

    BTW, if you go up to do the Savage Couloir bring a lightweight rope for checking out the cornices. If we’d had that we would have been much better off. Of course, once other folks do the Couloir they’ll stomp out the entrance and it’ll be much more straightforward.

  3. pete anzalone May 26th, 2008 9:29 am

    Great pix especially the beautiful pan of the northern Sawatch. Glad you had a great day.

    Yesterday, Perl & I skied the Silver Colouir on Buffalo – it took us less that 2.5 hours to summit but just over 2 to bush-whack the heck out! We don’t think we skied too low. Did we mess up or is that just the way it is?

    Any comments would be welcome.


  4. Lou May 26th, 2008 4:48 pm

    Pete, you missed the exit. It’s the shelf of an aqueduct you turn on from the open flats at the bottom of the couloir at 9,700 feet elevation. You ski the shelf for about 1/2 mile, then climb a few hundred feet southeast back to the ascent trail, then take the ascent trail down to the road. Takes minutes (g), though you may have to walk the road back to parking. But bushwhacking builds character, though I thought Bob only did that with me so now I’m jealous.

  5. carl May 27th, 2008 8:36 am

    Nice Lou….a family that skis together…..

    I skied Savage a few years ago with my friend Justin. We didn’t ski the couloir because we got there a bit late in the day so we skied the beautiful face that you all skied and then dropped to skier’s right into a drainage…BIG MISTAKE….I still have nightmares about bushwacking out of there…I wake up some nights just cussing and trying to duck and weave around bushes….

    Have you been skiing up on the Pass yet?

  6. Lou May 27th, 2008 10:54 am

    Independence is supposed to open in a few days. Could have gone up there but Fryingpan area is easier than rounding up an ATV to get past the Independence gate.

  7. Mary Lewis May 27th, 2008 5:00 pm

    Hey Lou thanks so much for including us monikers in your Savage Peak trip report. Our names are Collette, Mary, and Aaron. We did find an entrance to the Couloir and had a great ski! We ended summiting Savage again and then skiing off the southern slopes to get back to camp. What a savage day that was!!! And anyone wondering about the polka dot shirt- he was the only boy and wanted to fit in with the girls!!

  8. Lou May 27th, 2008 5:37 pm

    Mary, thanks! Good you found the couloir, was it a bit iffy sneaking up to the cornice, then you found there was no overhang? Something like that? At any rate, you guys are savage, especially with the shirt.

  9. Eric Holle May 28th, 2008 1:18 pm

    My buddy Ben and I climbed the Savage Couloir on 5/26 in perfect conditions. We saw all your ski tracks and footprints all around the mountain. What a great climb on an amazing mountain! I wish we had known that the road was open beforehand so we didn’t have to get up so early, but it was a nice surprise!

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